The Packers showed in Cincinnati that their historically good offense is ready for the 2012 season. It also showed that it may have added an important new dimension in Cedric Benson, who has wrapped up the starting job after one limited performance.
But let’s start with Aaron Rodgers, who found acres of open real estate when he bootlegged, scoring twice with his legs in the first quarter en route to 52 yards for the half. Now, none of us wants to see Rodgers running in the preseason, but it reminds teams that if they choose to let #12 beat them with his legs, he’s eminently capable of doing so.
The passing attack was average, with Rodgers a little better than 50%. But it was great to see Greg Jennings back out there, making some sweet moves as he gets ready for a contract year. Nelson and Cobb also factored in, but there are still chemistry issues between Rodgers and James Jones. The second quarter pick appeared to be a communication error as Rodgers went back shoulder but Jones kept running. A bit later on a short completion to Cobb, Jones was standing all alone in the end zone for what would have been an easy score.
I still find it hard to believe that both Jones and Driver will be on the 53 man roster.
Now, on to Benson, who looked fresh, nimble and motivated as he made his debut against the team that decided to let him walk. First carry: 8 yards, second carry: a broken tackle and nine more. In all he had 38 yards on six carries and caught one pass for ten yards. He clearly outshined Alex Green, who split the first half with him, but appears to be a nice complement to Benson and should improve as the season goes on.
You love having guys who are playing with a chip on their shoulder and that’s Benson. He’s so motivated to show he’s got more to give and he knows the opportunity that awaits with this offense. “I’m like a kid in a candy store,” he said after the game, knowing he’ll get to run against a nickel defense a lot of the time this season, presenting him with wide open spaces up the middle.
Benson’s emergence may cause the Pack to part ways with Starks and begin the season with Benson, Green, Saine and John Kuhn, who will be a third down stalwart, because of his pass protection–something Benson is not known for.
Defensively, the Pack looked strong, holding a playoff team to just two field goals in the first half. The Bengals were without their top two backs, Bernard Scott and Ben Jarvis-Green-Ellis, so it was nice to see the Pack shutting down the backups and forcing Andy Dalton into third and long situations. Clay Matthews was very active while he was out there–I thought the linebacking group played well as a whole. And we didn’t hear AJ Green’s name mentioned too much. He will be one of the AFC’s top receivers this season, but Tramon Williams won the matchup on this night.
Dom Capers has to feel good about this unit right now. They took a nice step forward against a strong team. I thought the safeties stepped up and the corners continue to battle for playing time.
Once Graham Harrell and the second teamers appeared in the second half, things slowed to a crawl. I would have liked to see Harrell enter for the two minute drill in the second quarter to see how he looked with the starters. It’s no secret that the backup O line is not strong so it’s hard to grade him. When you watch him he does not look the part of a guy who can carry this team in Rodgers’ absence. I’m still not sold on him and I don’t believe the coaches and front office are, either. He gets one more shot, next Thursday night.
The takeaway from this one: the offense is ready for the 49ers and maybe a bit more potent with the addition of Benson. One more practice game and then we can dial this thing up for real.